It’s hard to use the word “favorite” when talking about pasta. It’s like choosing a favorite child–impossible but sometimes you’re more into one than another (this is probably not how it works, I’m not a mother…but you know what I mean). When I first married my husband (who is from Italy and has very strong opinions about pasta, pizza, and espresso) I was obsessed with all things penne. Then for two years we both were in a “farfalle (bowtie) everything!” phase and over the last six months I’ve been very loyal to fettuccine. I’m curious to see where my taste buds and cravings will take me next.
I have to admit that before marrying a man that spent his first 30 years living in Italy I was doing pasta all wrong: overcooked, topped with red sauce and way too much “stuff” (cheese, meat, etc). I rarely, if ever, ordered olive oil-based pastas and I can say with confidence that none of them contained vegetables. I had a lot to learn about enjoying pasta al dente–the first time he cooked me a pasta dinner I remember thinking, “I think this needs to be cooked longer” I’m here to tell you I was wrong and I will freely admit it. There is nothing like a perfectly cooked noodle that is slightly firm and has some chew. He has elevated my pasta game and I’ll never look back (unless it’s macaroni and cheese, which is strictly an American dish and must be soft and covered in amazing cheesiness–but that’s a post for another day).
So how can you make pasta more sophisticated, and better yet, more healthy? Below I share with you my go-to favorite shrimp and vegetable pasta formula, for which the possible variations are endless.
(fettuccine, farfalle, penne, linguine, tagliatelle, etc)
(shrimp, clams, mussels, chicken, tofu, etc)
Olive Oil base
(olive oil + salt + pepper + red pepper + garlic + lemon juice)
(onion, Roma or cherry tomatoes, shallots, spinach, arugula, kale, broccoli, etc)
(fresh basil, shaved Parmesan, etc)
A light, easy pasta for summer night. Shrimp, tomatoes, broccoli, garlic and lemon tossed in a light olive oil and topped with basil. Sure to be a summer hit!
- 6-8 oz shrimp or other protein
- 6-8 oz pasta (I used fettucine)
- 2-4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
- 1/2 onion
- 2 Roma tomatoes
- 1/2-1 broccoli stalk
- salt and pepper to taste
- pinch of red pepper
- 1 lemon
- 4-5 fresh basil leaves
- If frozen, thaw shrimp or set on very low heat from frozen until about 50% cooked (don’t cook until they are done or they will be overdone when added to pasta)
- Fill large pot with water, add a pinch of salt, and bring to boil.
- While water is heating, add 1-2 tbsp oil oil to large pan and bring to medium heat. Add onions and other vegetables that are more cruciferous and have longer cooking times (broccoli, etc). Cook 3-5 minutes or until beginning to soften.
- Add quicker cooking vegetables like tomatoes, but leave aside fresh greens or herbs like basil to be added at finish.
- Add the rest of the olive oil (1-2 tbsp), garlic, salt, pepper, a pinch of red pepper (more if you’re like me and love spice) and squeeze of half of one lemon.
- When vegetables are soft, about 3 minutes, add shrimp and cook 2-3 minutes or until they have released water and cooked throughout. Lower heat to low simmer.
- Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions, about 8 minutes. Do not overcook! Pasta should be soft but not mushy, you should be able to bite into it with some resistance (my rule of thumb: when I think it needs another minute, I take it out!).
- Drain pasta and return to large pot. Add olive oil and vegetables, stirring to coat pasta well.
- Stir in leafy greens (arugula, spinach) and fresh herbs. Add more salt and pepper if needed, and the juice of the other half of lemon.
- Plate and serve! Top with fresh basil, a small amount of fresh Parmesan, or 1/2 sliced lemon to impress guests and make them think you know what you’re doing.
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 450